Shilique Calhoun, defensive end for Michigan State University, is considered one of the better draft eligible defensive ends in college football in 2014. However, Michigan State had him playing in a 4-3 while the San Francisco 49ers run a 3-4. So if the 49ers drafted Calhoun, how would he fit in their defense?
First of all, if Calhoun were drafted by the 49ers he would have to switch to outside linebacker or put on a lot of weight to play end. At defensive end, the 49ers need big, bulky, hard-to-move guys because they have their linemen play a 2-gap technique. What this means is that each linemen is responsible for the gaps on either side of him. A skill a 2-gap lineman must have is to be able to hold his ground, diagnose the play, and disengage from his blocker so he can make the play. They also need to be able to take up more than one blocker so the linebackers can stay clean to make the tackle. Calhoun doesn’t do either of these very well.
When Calhoun faced linemen that had NFL potential in 2013, he didn’t need to be double-teamed. He would allow linemen to get leverage on him and get their hands under his pads. If he lets that happen in the NFL, he’ll find himself on his back far too often.
Even if the 49ers decided to move him to outside linebacker, I don’t think he’d be particularly effective there either. When coming off the ball, he’s not particularly fast or explosive. As a player who is neither of these, it would be extremely beneficial to be proficient in a multitude of pass rush techniques. Calhoun isn’t. Most of the time he attempts a bull rush and doesn’t get much movement. If he tries another technique, it’s usually a swim move that doesn’t get him very far.
Something that would improve his pass rush drastically would be his hands. If on the 49ers, he would be able to learn from Aldon Smith, who might have the best hands of any outside linebacker or defensive linemen. Calhoun’s handwork was almost non-existent in 2013. If he wants any kind of pass rush when he gets the NFL, he will need to improve this.
As of right now the 49ers aren’t in desperate need of outside linebackers. If they drafted Calhoun in 2015 it would strictly be for depth. However, with Aldon Smith’s history, there is a chance that situation could change in 2014. I would give Calhoun a fourth or fifth round grade right now although that could change after this season. Where his skill level is at now, he would be a project, someone the 49ers drafted in the later rounds and hoped would develop into either a good starter or someone they could rotate in every so often.